Hurricane Ian will be hard to forget.
Packing 150 mph winds as it roared into Florida on Wednesday afternoon, the Category 4 storm blew houses, cars and trees into fast-moving torrents of muddy water in Fort Myers on the state’s Gulf Coast, cut power to more than 2 million customers and presented an additional life-threatening hazard: inland flooding. Some parts of the state experienced 5 to 6 inches of rain per hour.
The hurricane reportedly killed two people in Cuba as it headed north and the Coast Guard rescued three Cuban migrants near Key West on Wednesday as 20 remained missing after hurricane conditions sank their boat.
Ian, the strongest hurricane to make landfall in Florida since Hurricane Michael in 2018, weakened slightly to a Category 3 storm by Wednesday night and this morning is a tropical storm with maximum sustained winds of 65 mph. The National Hurricane Center said at 5 a.m. ET that strong winds, heavy rain and storm surge will linger. The Atlantic Coast will feel the remnants.
“Ian could be near hurricane strength when it approaches the coast of South Carolina on Friday. Weakening is expected Friday night and Saturday after Ian moves inland,” the Hurricane Center said in an advisory.
Ian’s center is expected to move away from Florida’s east-central coast later today and then approach South Carolina’s coast on Friday. The center of what remains of the storm will move inland across the Carolinas on Friday night and into Saturday, according to the latest forecast.
Historically, water has accounted for the vast majority of all deaths during tropical cyclones that have made landfall in the United States: 83 percent of fatalities during storms from 2016 to 2018 were water-related, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Most were from inland flooding; only 4 percent were from storm surge, the agency said (The Washington Post).
The New York Times: Inland areas face “life-threatening” flooding as Ian soaks Florida.
Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell and National Weather Service Director Ken Graham said widespread flooding is a top safety concern as Ian makes its slow crawl into the history books.
“This storm is doing a number on the state of Florida,” Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) added during a televised briefing Wednesday.
The governor outlined the state’s rescue response preparations by land, air and sea using the U.S. Coast Guard and Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. He said he was gratified to see power company personnel who traveled from Alabama, Texas, Louisiana and elsewhere and were working to get Florida’s downed power lines back in service.
“You are really seeing just a great logistical effort to get all hands on deck,” DeSantis said.
The governor asked the Biden administration to declare a major disaster emergency to provide 100 percent federal reimbursement to all 67 counties in Florida for 60 days.
President Biden, who postponed planned election-related visits to Fort Lauderdale and Orlando days ahead of the hurricane, on Wednesday pledged “my absolute commitment” that the federal government will “be there at every step of the way.”
▪ The Hill: Biden on Wednesday warned oil and gas companies not to hike energy prices because of Hurricane Ian.
▪ The Hill: Here are 10 of the worst hurricanes to hit the United States.
▪ The Hill: Hurricane Ian roils Florida governor’s race.
▪ The Hill: Biden and DeSantis put politics aside ahead of Hurricane Ian’s landfall.
▪ The New York Times: As storm hits, DeSantis pauses his political bomb-throwing.
▪ The Hill: The Biden administration approved a waiver of the Jones Act for Puerto Rico following Hurricane Fiona to ensure sufficient diesel to run generators for electricity.
LEADING THE DAY
The Senate is expected to vote today on a must-pass stopgap spending package that seeks to avert a government shutdown. The bill must pass the House and Senate by Friday.
“With cooperation from our Republican colleagues, the Senate can finish its work of keeping the government open as soon as tomorrow. There is every reason in the world to get to ‘yes’,” Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a Wednesday floor speech. The bill would extend government funding through Dec. 16 (Reuters).
The Hill: House GOP calls for ‘no’ vote on spending bill.
While an October session is still on the calendar for senators, most expect Schumer to call a recess so members can campaign ahead of the midterms. It is the norm for Congress to be out of session in autumn months during election years.
Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) push to get a bill through Congress to streamline federal construction permits for energy projects faces an uncertain future after the lawmaker failed to line up enough support in the Senate to add it to a stopgap spending bill, writes The Hill’s Rachel Frazin. Democrats excised it amid opposition from both conservatives and progressives.
▪ Politico: Why Manchin backed off on his top priority.
▪ E&E News: Manchin’s permitting overhaul: Not dead yet.
Elsewhere in the Senate, The Hill’s Al Weaver reports that Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) support for the Electoral Count Act showcases a new schism with former President Trump. McConnell’s support for the bill — which sets to clarify sections of the Electoral Count Act of 1887 to make it more difficult to object to the results of a presidential election — gives it a significant boost, experts say, and increases the likelihood of Senate passage.
“Congress’s process for counting the presidential electors’ votes was written 135 years ago,” McConnell said Tuesday. “The chaos that came to a head on Jan. 6 of last year certainly underscored the need for an update.”
The bill, which serves as a response to the 2021 attack on the Capitol, has detractors within the GOP. Some, like McConnell, support the measure and are distancing themselves from Trump, while others, including Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) — both seen as potential presidential candidates in 2024 — are expected to oppose the bill and stand by the former president.
House GOP leaders last week voted against their chamber’s version of the bill, emphasizing the split in the party (The New York Times).
▪ USA Today: McConnell backs Electoral Count Act to prevent repeat of Jan. 6 insurrection, all but ensuring passage.
▪ The Guardian: McConnell endorses bipartisan bill to prevent efforts to overturn US elections.
▪ Politico: Poll: Majority supports reforming electoral vote count law.
▪ The Hill: McConnell downplays impact of abortion politics on battle for the Senate.
McConnell has also stoked speculation that Republicans are heaping praise on Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) in the hope that she will switch parties. Though Sinema has ruled this out, writes The Hill’s Alexander Bolton, she has said that many of her best friends in the Senate are Republicans. She often socializes on the GOP side of the Senate floor. McConnell on Monday praised Sinema when she spoke at the University of Louisville’s McConnell Center (USA Today).
“She is, today, what we have too few of in the Democratic Party: A genuine moderate and a dealmaker,” he said.
McConnell and Sinema have found common ground on at least one issue: both are staunch defenders of the chamber’s filibuster. These relationships make her a Senate power broker. As one Democratic aide observes: If Sinema has signed onto a bill, it has a good chance of passing. But Schumer doesn’t seem so enamored; he has repeatedly declined to confirm if he plans on endorsing Sinema for reelection in 2024.
“Senator Sinema has done a good job on a whole lot of different issues,” he told reporters Wednesday.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
➤ POLITICS & INVESTIGATIONS
Ahead of Friday’s gubernatorial debate in Texas, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D) needs a game-changing performance against Gov. Greg Abbott (R) to change the race — and possibly save his political career, writes The Hill’s Niall Stanage. O’Rourke was considered the new hope of Texas Democrats when he came close to ousting Sen. Ted Cruz (R) in 2018. But what followed was a failed presidential run, and now polls show O’Rourke lagging behind Abbott by 7 percentage points (The Hill).
With this track record, experts are doubtful whether O’Rourke could survive another high-profile loss. Friday’s debate, which starts at 7 p.m. CDT, is being hosted by The Hill’s parent company, Nexstar.
▪ KXAN: Three ways to watch the Abbott-O’Rourke Texas governor debate Friday.
▪ Texas Monthly: Abbott and former O’Rourke are finally debating. Here’s what they need to be asked.
© Associated Press / LM Otero, The Hill’s graphics team | Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and challenger Beto O’Rourke (D) face off Friday in a televised debate.
As the midterm elections approach, Democrats are disagreeing over key strategy, writes The Hill’s Hanna Trudo. Party members are divided about whether to frame the elections as a referendum on Trump, linking current candidates to the former president, or make an independent case for why Democrats should retain power. And a third group argues the party should make both cases simultaneously.
These divisions are making their way to the public, leading some to question if the internal debate is doing more harm than good.
“These guys are ruthless on the other side,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), a leading voice urging Democrats to dial up their rhetoric, said this weekend at a climate conference. “Where are we? Where are we organizing, bottom-up, a compelling alternative narrative? Where are we going on the offense every single day? They’re winning right now.”
▪ Politico: Newsom on Democrats: “We have a messaging problem.”
▪ The Hill: Republicans pounce on ailing financial markets to criticize Biden.
▪ The Hill: Ginni Thomas to speak with Jan. 6 committee this week.
The U.S. Embassy in Moscow is urging Americans to leave Russia, and warning U.S. citizens not to travel to the country. The warning follows Russian President Vladimir Putin’s call for 300,000 reservists to aid forces in the war against Ukraine.
In a Wednesday security alert, the embassy said Russia may prevent American citizens from leaving the country and conscript dual nationals into military service (The Hill).
The United States will give Ukraine 18 more advanced rocket systems as part of a new $1.1 billion weapons package, Pentagon officials announced on Wednesday (The Hill). The additional High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems will be sent to Ukraine once they are manufactured and will not be drawn from existing U.S. stocks. The latest package brings the total U.S. security assistance committed to Ukraine to more than $16.2 billion since February.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration announced Tuesday that it will keep the country’s refugee admissions cap at 125,000 for fiscal 2023, unadjusted from the previous year. Officials hope the U.S. is able to admit more refugees than in 2022, as not all enter the country through the same programs (The Hill).
“This ambitious target demonstrates that the United States is committed to rebuilding and strengthening the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP), including by building capacity, modernizing and streamlining overall operations, and resolving long-delayed applications,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
■ Biden is mending ties with our oppressors. He should listen to us instead, by Lina al-Hathloul, Khalid Aljabri and Abdullah Alaoudh, guest essayists, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3LPpsEQ
■ Seven years of Trump has the right wing taking the long view, by Thomas Edsall, columnist, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/3fu9NyP
WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets at 10 a.m.
The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. to resume consideration of a continuing resolution to fund the government before the fiscal year ends on Friday.
The president will receive the President’s Daily Briefing at 8:30 a.m. Biden will visit the Washington headquarters of FEMA to be briefed about what is now tropical storm Ian. The president at 3 p.m. will host the U.S.- Pacific Island Country Summit at the State Department. At the White House at 6:45 p.m., the president will host a dinner for visiting leaders of Pacific Island nations.
Vice President Harris early Thursday held a bilateral meeting in South Korea with President Yoon Suk-yeol and met with Korean women leaders. Harris traveled to the demilitarized zone to tour sites at the DMZ, met with service members and received an operational briefing from U.S. commanders.
The secretary of state at 1:30 p.m. meets with Marshall Islands President David Kabua, Micronesia President David Panuelo, and President of Palau Surangel Whipps Jr. at the State Department. Blinken participates in the U.S.-Pacific Island Country Summit at 3 p.m. He plans to attend Biden’s White House dinner for leaders who are in Washington for the administration’s Pacific Island summit.
Economic indicator: The Labor Department at 8:30 a.m. will report on filings for unemployment benefits in the week ending Sept. 24.
More than 200,000 Russians are estimated to have fled their country to escape Putin’s draft of military reserves to fight in Ukraine. More are making the attempt, triggering fears of chaotic instability as some Russians are served with draft orders at Russia’s border checkpoints or stalled in long traffic lines and border choke points (The New York Times).
Putin is seen as ominously boxed in as Russia’s war with Ukraine turns sour inside Russia (The Hill).
“He is dangerous, he is desperate,” Daniel Fried, distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council and a former U.S. ambassador to Poland, told The Hill. “Because he’s in a weak position he’s doubling down on what he may consider to be his strongest remaining assets: nuclear threat and ability to use violence to achieve his aims, such as blowing up the Nord Stream pipelines, if in fact Russia is responsible, which it appears they may be. He’s hoping to use unpredictability as a tactical weapon to intimidate the West.”
CIA Director William Burns told CBS News that military manpower is just one of Putin’s many problems as Russia’s war with Ukraine enters its eighth month. Burns also said it was “very hard to say at this point” if Putin is bluffing about using nuclear weapons. He said the U.S. intelligence community has not seen “any practical evidence” that the Russian president is moving closer to that red line. “What we have to do is take it very seriously, watch for signs of actual preparations,” he said, adding that policymakers should also “communicate very directly the severe consequences that would flow from any use of nuclear weapons” (The Hill).
▪ The New York Times: The Pentagon announces an additional $1.1 billion in long-term aid for Ukraine.
▪ CNN: European security officials this week observed Russian Navy ships in the vicinity of Nord Stream pipeline leaks, according to Western intelligence sources.
▪ Reuters: Fourth Nord Stream pipelines leak found, Swedish Coast Guard says.
▪ The Hill: Europe vows “robust” response to alleged sabotage of Russian natural gas pipelines under the Baltic Sea.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed to protect Ukrainians as Russia’s sham referendums ended on Tuesday and Ukrainian territory was swallowed by Russian annexation. He called Moscow’s move a “farce,” adding in his Tuesday night address, “We will act to protect our people in the Kherson region, in the Zaporizhzhia region, in Donbas, in the currently occupied areas of the Kharkiv region and in Crimea,” (The Hill).
🚨 United Kingdom: The Bank of England was forced on Wednesday into emergency action to halt a run on Britain’s pension funds after the impact of the new government’s unfunded tax cut policies prompted fears of a 2008-style financial crisis. The fallout from a dramatic rise in government borrowing costs forced the U.K. central bank to intervene to protect the financial system (The Guardian). The scale and speed of the sell-off in British assets jolted world markets, raising concern about contagion as chaos in a major developed economy adds to unease already generated by sharp interest rate hikes from the United States and elsewhere (Reuters).
In North Korea, Kim Jong Un may soon oversee the first nuclear test since 2017 (Bloomberg News). His regime fired two short-range missiles into the sea on Thursday.
In China, President Xi Jinping “verbally confirms” his planned participation Nov. 18-19 at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum to be held in Bangkok. Biden is seen as unlikely to attend because of his granddaughter’s planned White House wedding (South China Morning Post).
Cuba‘s top diplomat told The Hill during a Tuesday interview that his country’s officials have no choice but to engage the United States in negotiations to normalize relations, despite a decade of diplomatic whiplash and mixed messages from Washington. Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla said, “We will have to,” when asked if Cuba would ever again negotiate with the United States, “because there is a historical trend that will, at some point, force us to reestablish dialogue and lift the blockade.” After a historic and controversial push to normalize relations between Washington and Havana under former President Obama, the Trump administration did an about-face, most famously adding Cuba to a list of state sponsors of terrorism.
➤ PANDEMIC, POX & HEALTH
The number of new weekly cases of COVID-19 decreased by 11 percent globally, the World Health Organization reports. During the week of Sept. 19-25, more than 3 million cases were reported across the world. Deaths also decreased in this period, with 8,900 fatalities globally.
The WHO estimates that as of Sept. 25, 612 million total confirmed cases and 6.5 million deaths have occurred as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Early figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show unvaccinated people were 14 times more likely to become infected with monkeypox than those who received a vaccine, the agency reported Wednesday.
“These new data provide us with a level of cautious optimism that the vaccine is working as intended,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters. Though infections continue to decline week over week, there are currently more than 25,000 cases of monkeypox identified across all 50 states (The Hill).
The CDC is urging all eligible individuals to get COVID-19 booster vaccines, as well as monkeypox vaccines for those who are at present or future risk for contracting the disease. Information about COVID-19 vaccine availability and eligibility can be found HERE.
A new Alzheimer’s drug slowed the rate of cognitive decline by 27 percent in a phase 3 clinical trial, according to a news release from manufacturers Eisai and Biogen. The researchers saw “highly statistically significant” slowing of deterioration compared to the placebo group, renewing hope for Alzheimer’s patients (The Hill).
Respiratory viruses are showing up earlier than expected this season in children, according to the CDC, which points to confirmed cases of rhinovirus, enterovirus and the more severe enterovirus D68, or EV-D68, in children and adolescents (Politico).
Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University (trackers all vary slightly): 1,058,506. Current average U.S. COVID-19 daily deaths are 354, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by NASA’s successful targeting of an asteroid this week, we’re eager for some smart guesses about outer space. 🪐💥🌑🚀
Email your responses to firstname.lastname@example.org and/or email@example.com, and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.
In what year did NASA make its final manned Apollo lunar landing?
The first woman to fly in space was _____?
- Julie Payette
- Valentina Tereshkova
- Sally Ride
- Judith Resnik
The NASA mission that crashed Monday into asteroid Dimorphos is known as DART, an acronym for what?
- Double Asteroid Redirection Test
- Dimorphos Asteroid Redirection Test
- Double Angle Reentry Test
- Dual Area Regulation Test
Which is the hottest planet in our solar system?